Issues with Manufactured Structural Products and D.I.Y

Several issues have become apparent over the years:

  1. Most small manufacturers of structural building products tend to have little knowledge and interest in their product. More to the point they do not put effort into the design and development of a product, they only consider documentation requirements for building approval. Building approval however is concerned with the installation, the specific application of a building system, it is not concerned with the design of the building system. The building system however is the product the manufacturers are selling. Therefore more effort needs to go into product design and presentation of technical information to possible end-users of such product.
  2. Manufacturers who do put effort into design and development of their product are hindered, by a lack of similar effort on the part of the regulators. Nail plated timber roof truss manufacturers automated the design of roof trusses so that they can design in a few minutes, the regulators using general purpose tools however would require a few hours. Design aids and automation tools therefore need to be available to the manufacturers and to the design reviewers and regulating authorities.
  3. Design reviewers and regulating authorities cannot hold copies of every manufacturers catalogues, design aids and automation tools. This favours generic designs, or internet access to supplier specific resources on an as needs basis. Alternatively where possible, design tools using generic opensource file formats which permit interchange of data with general purpose tools. {eg. roof truss software exports a MicroStran data file,or even more general xml format}
  4. D.I.Y enthusiasts and owner-builders are hampered due to a lack of prescriptive solutions and automated tools for assessment of common structural forms. Engineering effort is proportional to complexity not to size, consequently the cost of engineering for a D.I.Y project can be seen as expensive. The D.I.Y typically expects to save on labour costs, by only buying materials. Unfortunately the whole idea can fall apart, because the cost of engineering for something that seems to have been built a 1000 times already, costs far too much. The problem is that whilst it may have been built many times already, it has been designed far fewer times, and not yet designed by your local consulting engineer. There is therefore need for some low cost generic prescriptive solutions for common structural forms.
  5. Both engineering consultancies and manufacturers, have a shortage of shared knowledge and examples for reference. Therefore there needs to be some benchmark calculations and design solutions, which illustrate the extent of assessment required, acceptable presentation, and provide the ball park for comparison with more specific designs. {eg. standard design for 3m span and 6m span, envelopes the design for a custom span of 5m. Not only does it provide a check as to whether calculations are in error, but helps decide whether custom calculations are  of any value pursuing in the first place.}
  6. Computers don’t necessarily save time on the job. Lookup tables and design curves are often faster and more insightful than point value calculations using a computer.
  7. Documentation requirements are a problem. Whilst the text book presentation of engineering calculations, showing a free body diagram, an algebraic formula, numbers substituted into the formula, and then the result of the formula, is useful for learning purposes and documenting a new design process for future reference, it is a waste for routine calculations. Printing to a digital report, such as a PDF file, doesn’t make the exercise any less wasteful. A true independent review should not involve reference to the designers calculations, it should only review the inputs and the specifications output: therefore calculations should not need to be submitted. Design is a process, and design review and assessment are processes. These processes need to be automated for the routine and common structural forms. Documentation should be limited to certified specifications, which  can be rapidly assessed and validated using automated tools.
  8. Computer automated calculation tools should have either an audit mode, or report styles ranging from simple summary to detailed.

This website and associated web store have been created with the intention of resolving the above issues, as far as it concerns the structural design of common structural forms and manufactured structural products made from cold-formed steel (AS4600), hot-rolled steel (AS4100), timber (AS1720), and occasionally: Aluminium (AS1664), Concrete (AS3600).

The primary pre-specified building products considered are:

  1. Sheds (domestic, industrial and rural)
  2. Canopies, carports and verandahs
  3. Balustrades, guard railing
  4. Decks

Others which have been considered in the past are:

  1. Retaining walls
  2. Water storage tanks
  3. Sports nets
  4. SIP’s

For general information and enquiries regarding the use of pre-engineered building systems, enquire at the following linkedin group: Pre-Engineered Manufactured Building Systems Group .  {Due to changes at Linkedin, all groups are now private and have to log in to view}